Flanagan, Richard. Wanting. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2008.
Reason read: the Tasmania Food Fest occurs in December.
Set in 1839, real-life Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin has arrived for a governor’s position for the penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land. There, he and his wife, Lady Jane, fall in love with a spunky live-wire of a native Aboriginal child they call Mathinna. To the Franklins, Methinna is a grand experiment: to see if they can “civilize” the girl through Christianity. Viewed as a savage without reason, they want to tame her into their kind of submission. Leapfrogging ahead in time, Sir John Franklin and his crew have disappeared in the Arctic. Tales of cannibalism embarrass Lady Jane enough for her to approach Charles Dickens to tell a different story.
Through both timelines the emotion of wanting is explored. Sir John Franklin wanted to tame Mathinna. Later, he wanted to tame the Northwest Passage. Lady Jane wanted Methinna as the child she could not have herself and later, when her husband disappeared, she wanted to clear his name of the rumored savagery. How ironic. Dickens, in competition with other writers of the day like Thackeray, reveled in Franklin’s story and wanted a recognition he has never had before.
Author fact: Flanagan also wrote Gould’s Book of Fish, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, The Unknown Terrorist, and Death of a River Guide among others. These four listed are on my list.
Book trivia: Wanting is a short novel, only 252 pages long.
Nancy said: the angle of Lady Jane Franklin employing Charles Dickens to tell her husband’s tale was “deftly explored” in Richard Flanagan’s Wanting (p 232).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “To the Ends of the Earth: North and South (the Arctic)” (p 230).